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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Caravan park 'Christ' draws the faithful
Local officials say the shadow may be given protection
To some it is just a mottled shadow cast on the fence of a caravan park - to others it is the face of Jesus Christ himself.

For the town of Port Germein in South Australia, the nightly apparition - resulting from the combination of a street light, a wooden fence and a conveniently placed tree - is providing a much-needed boost to the local tourist industry.

Personally, I'm afraid, I'm a bit of sceptic

Father Arno Vermeeren, head of local diocese
Newspaper reports about the "miraculous" vision have brought hundreds of visitors from across Australia to the small coastal resort and local officials say they will consider some sort of protection for the image.

The owners of the caravan park which plays host to the Christ shadow say they are booked solid for weeks ahead with people eager to witness the shadow's nightly appearance for themselves.

The face, replete with crown of thorns and beard, was first spotted about five months ago by Port Germein business owner Shelly Brooks.

Shadow spotter

It was a message of some sort but I'm just waiting to find out the answer

Shelly Brooks
She says she saw it late one night while sitting on the veranda of her home.

"I looked over my husband's shoulder and said 'Jesus Christ'," Mrs Brooks told Australia's ABC news. "My husband said 'what is wrong now', and I said 'Jesus Christ'."

"It was a message of some sort but I'm just waiting to find out the answer," she added.

Mrs Brooks, who keeps a daily watch on the apparition says that no matter how windy it is the shadow caused by the tree does not move.

Nun bun

Now the Port Germein Christ shadow looks set to join a growing list of otherwise everyday objects that have acquired a religious significance.

It is yet another reason to come to Port Germein

Peter Moore, Mount Remarkable district council
In 1997 the famous nun bun - a Cinamon bun with a striking resemblace to the late Mother Theresa - made its miraculous appearance at a Nashville bakery.

And last year a Muslim housewife in Yorkshire, England, was surprised to find a message from Allah inside a tomato.

For Port Germein, whose only other claim to fame to date is that it is home to the southern hemisphere's longest wooden jetty, the Christ shadow has added another - some would say much needed - attraction.

In response to public pressure, the local council has said that routine trimming of the tree will not now take place.

Nightly marvel

"It is yet another reason to come to Port Germein," said Peter Moore, spokesman for the appropriately named Mount Remarkable district council.

"By day you can see our big, long jetty and by night you'll be able to marvel at the apparition."

However, the head of the local Catholic diocese, Father Arno Vermeeren, says he still needs some convincing that the apparition is the result of any supernatural power.

"Personally, I'm afraid, I'm a bit of sceptic," he told the news agency AFP.

"Shadows can occur in different combinations and clouds can have different formations and sometimes they can appear to be religious-looking objects," he said.

"Without something else to say there's something more there, I couldn't in good conscience convince myself there's more to it than that."

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